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Herbaceous plants and flowers that will tolerate shallow chalk or alkaline soils

There is a good cross section of chalk tolerant herbaceous flowering plants that will put up with shallow chalky soils. As with all other herbaceous plants you will need to put some time into improving the soil by digging in well rotted compost soil prior to planting. Mulching around plants with compost will improve soil fertility as well as lock in soil moisture and reduce weed growth. Mulching is especially useful on chalky soils as they tend to be nutrient poor and free draining and mulching every couple of years will greatly improve humus level in the soil, just don’t mulch to deep and try and avoid mulching around the collar of the plant to avoid scorching damage; this shouldn’t be an issue if you mulch in autumn as herbaceous plants enter dormancy, as by the time they re-shoot in the spring the compost will have largely broken down.

Many of these plants will also require lifting and dividing to encourage rejuvenated growth and flowering as well as stacking during the spring and summer months to stop taller plants from collapsing onto surrounding plants. Masses of herbaceous plants are rarely a sensible option for the more sedentary gardener, but saying that a few herbaceous plants thrown in the mix can really perk up a border, and if you are sensible with your selections you can get away with a minimum of input.

All of these plants are suitable for drift planting or for mixed planting with chalk tolerant shrubs, ground cover and grasses.

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Latin &
Common Name
EarmarkType & FormFlowers & Foliage
Centranthus ruber - Valerian, CentranthusCentranthus ruber

Valerian, Centranthus
Herbaceous Flowers, Upright - ClumpDark pink flowers (Summer)
Salvia x sylvestris - Mainacht - SageSalvia x sylvestris


Herbaceous Flowers, Ground cover, Container-friendly, Rounded - ClumpDark blue flowers (Summer late)
Lychnis coronariaLychnis coronaria Herbaceous Flowers, SpikeyCerise flowers (Summer)
Fritillaria imperialis - Crown ImperialFritillaria imperialis

Crown Imperial
Herbaceous Flowers, Container-friendly, SpikeyOrange flowers (Summer early)
Verbena bonariensis - VerbenaVerbena bonariensis

Herbaceous Flowers, SpikeyPurple flowers (Summer)
Knautia macedonica - Macedonian Scabious, KnautiaKnautia macedonica

Macedonian Scabious, Knautia
Herbaceous Flowers, Upright - ClumpCerise flowers (Summer)
Euphorbia x martiniiEuphorbia x martinii Herbaceous Flowers, SpikeyGreen flowers (Summer early)
Erysimum linifolium - Bowles Mauve - Perennial WallflowerErysimum linifolium

'Bowles Mauve'

Perennial Wallflower
Shrub, Herbaceous Flowers, Container-friendly, Upright - ClumpPurple flowers (Summer)
Origanum vulgare - Aureum - OraginoOriganum vulgare


Herbaceous Flowers, Herbs, Ground cover, Alpine, Culinary, Container-friendly, SpreadingDark pink flowers (Summer)
Saxifraga fortunei - Pink MistSaxifraga fortunei

'Pink Mist'
Herbaceous Flowers, Ground cover, Container-friendly, SpreadingDark pink flowers (Summer late)

You can use our plant-finder to find plants that match your garden conditions exactly, for example Herbaceous plants and flowers that will tolerate shallow chalk or alkaline soils - click to give it a try!

Have you seen our other plant top ten recommendations?